Showing posts from October, 2010

more on setting

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer also uses setting as a character. In fact, the glass room of the title is the protagonist (character around which the action circles) of the novel. I bought the book because it's set in Brno, Czechoslovakia, prior to WWII. Brno is slightly disguised, as is the glass house, but most readers will know that the house is based on one designed by Mies van der Rohe, famed German architect, in 1930: the Tugendhat house. In it'sday, it was shockingly modern.

Some of the lit crit I read about this book is, I think, quite superficial, looking at the glass room as a symbol of coldness and of lack of space for hiding the truth. My opinion is that the glass room represents the optimism and internationalism of the First Republic of Czechoslovakia, where newly-free and newly-wealthy Czechs reached out into the world around them for ideas and to develop relationships. The architect in the novel is Viennese, not German, to show the rapprochement between the old em…

Setting in a work of fiction

In Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses setting as a character. He so thoroughly interweaves the setting (time and place) into the fabric of the story that they become inseparable. Before we discuss Marquez, though, first let me define setting.

Setting refers to time and place:
1. Time is the context of the story in terms of days, weeks, months, years, centuries, millenia. In Ulysses by James Joyce, the story spans one day; James Michener's novel Hawaii covers millenia. Often a story moves backward or forward in time, to fill in plot details or foreshadow future events. A common device, called framing, begins and ends at one point in time, while the main story is in a different time. The movie Titanic used framing to begin and end the story.

It can confuse readers if the author jumps around in time.Traditional narratives are usually chronological (events happen consecutively, as in our normal concept of time) to imitate "real life" or increase ease of…

an aside on writing and publishing

I promised to write about settings in narratives next, but first I want to make an aside.


No one who wants "to write" has an excuse anymore not to write AND get published.

"Published" simply means "made public." In the past, you had to write a novel, let's say, and then find an agent to sell it to a publisher, who then sold it to the public. This was a 2-3 year process, with no guarantee of success. Publishing involved making and distributing a physical book, with ink on paper and bound by covers.
If you sell it to a publisher, you no longer own it. That's a poor choice, in my opinion, unless you're confident that the publisher will sell enough copies to make it worth your while (remember, the author only gets a royalty on each book--maybe 10% of the cover price per book sold. Do the math.)

If you want a physical book, you can either sell your book to a publisher, who assembles it and sends it to a printer (the 2-3 year process, see ab…

narratives are stories: narrators

The most enduring form of writing (except perhaps graffiti) is the narrative. A narrative is a story that's told by someone (the narrator). But--pozor! (Czech for "be careful"--my Czech teacher says this frequently when we answer a question in class). The narrator is not necessarily the author, who is the person(s) who writes down the story, although in fact, the author may not be the person who first told the story (as in the case of a fable or legend) or even the first person to write it down (as in fairy tales and children's Bible stories). In any event, the narrator needs to be identified and distinguished from the other characters by the writer.

So your first task as a writer when writing a narrative is to delineate the narrator. Is the narrator yourself? Very rarely is the author the narrator, except in autobiography (written in 1st person--"I"). A book written in third person ("he, she, it, or a person's name") may not seem to have a na…

Five blogs, six newsletters and a website are not enough

All my life I've been a reader. If I got paid for all the books I've read...well you know the rest. Now that I'm in the prime of life, all the reading has bubbled up to the surface as knowledge about writing.
Hence this blog.
It also gives me a good excuse not to work on my novel.